Airport security is the worst.
I mean, of course, it’s great that it keeps us safe while flying, but going through airport security is an experience that feels like purgatory. This is especially true at large, busy airports such as ATL and LAX, where it can routinely take over an hour just to get through security screening.
However, there is a way to make airport security faster and less frustrating. It’s a program called TSA PreCheck. In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about the PreCheck program. We’ll cover what TSA PreCheck is, why it’s worth it, and how to apply for it.
Let’s get started!
What Is TSA PreCheck?
To understand TSA PreCheck, you need to understand the goal of airport security. The TSA’s main goal is to ensure that no one brings weapons or other dangerous items onto airplanes. They therefore conduct a screening process that consists of x-raying your luggage and having you step into a body scanner.
However, the reality is that most travelers have no intention of committing a crime or bringing prohibited items onto an airplane.
In recognition of this, the TSA created a program called PreCheck. The goal of this program is to identify “low risk” travelers and allow them to pass through airport security more quickly and with less screening.
Sounds great, right? As you’ll see in the next section, it’s even better than you imagine.
Why You Should Get TSA PreCheck
So what exactly are the benefits of TSA PreCheck? When you’re a PreCheck member, you get to do the following when going through airport security:
- Wait in a separate, expedited security line.
- Keep your shoes on.
- Keep your laptop in your bag.
- Keep light jackets/outerwear on.
- Keep 3-1-1 compliant liquids in your bag.
- Walk through a metal detector instead of standing inside a body scanner.
Note that the main benefit of the above isn’t (necessarily) getting through airport security faster. While the process tends to be faster (because people who have PreCheck are usually regular air travelers), the PreCheck lines have gotten longer as more people discover the program.
The real benefit to PreCheck is all the hassle and frustration it saves you. You don’t have to awkwardly try to remove your belt and shoes while also trying to place your bags into the x-ray machine, for instance.
Going through airport security becomes an (almost) dignified experience, and that’s more than worth the money in our opinion.
TSA PreCheck Application Steps
Applying for TSA PreCheck is a simple process. To start, you’ll need to complete an online application. This application will ask you for some basic information, including your name, birth date, address, and phone number. It only takes about 5 minutes.
After you’ve entered your information, you’ll be able to schedule an appointment at one of the 380+ enrollment centers across the United States. Visit this page to find an enrollment center near you.
During your appointment, you’ll pay an $85 application fee, get fingerprinted, and receive a background check. The appointment should only take around 10 minutes.
After your appointment, just wait for an email from the TSA letting you know if you’ve been approved. Assuming the TSA approves you for PreCheck, they’ll mail you a document with your Known Traveler Number (KTN).
Now, all you have to do is add your KTN to your flight information when booking. You can usually save this number to your frequent flyer account(s) so that you don’t have to enter it each time you book.
When you enter your KTN when booking a flight, you’ll get a boarding pass that says “TSA PreCheck” on it. This is what you’ll use to go through the PreCheck security line. You don’t need any additional card or documents (aside from the usual valid ID).
How to Get TSA PreCheck for (Almost) Free
You have to pay an $85, non-refundable application fee when you apply for TSA PreCheck. Even if the TSA rejects your application, you won’t be able to get this fee back.
However, there is a way to get reimbursed for your application fee. If you use one of the following travel credit cards to pay your PreCheck application fee, you can receive a statement credit:
Of course, you’ll still have to pay the annual fee for these cards. But the $85 statement credit can do a lot to offset that fee.
TSA PreCheck FAQ
To conclude this article, here are the answers to some common questions about TSA PreCheck.
1. Is the TSA PreCheck application fee refundable?
No, it isn’t. This is why we strongly encourage you to pay the application fee with a travel credit card that will reimburse you.
2. How long is TSA PreCheck good for?
TSA PreCheck is valid for 5 years. And you can also renew your membership once those 5 years are up. The TSA will send you a reminder that your membership is about to expire, though we also recommend putting it on your calendar so you don’t forget.
3. What’s the difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry?
Some people confuse the two, but TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are different programs.
Global Entry is a program of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that allows you to go through expedited border control and customs at select airports. TSA PreCheck, meanwhile, lets you go through expedited security screening for domestic flights.
However, Global Entry members automatically get TSA PreCheck as well. For this reason, applying for Global Entry is a better deal if you plan to travel internationally. You can learn more about Global Entry in this guide.
4. Who is eligible to apply for TSA PreCheck?
U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for TSA PreCheck. Note that certain criminal offenses may make you ineligible for the program. You can learn more about PreCheck eligibility requirements here.
5. Can my children go through TSA PreCheck with me?
If your child is 12 or younger, they may accompany you through the TSA PreCheck line as long as you have a PreCheck indicator on your boarding pass.
If your child is 13 or older, then they’ll either need to go through the standard security line or apply for PreCheck. You can learn more here.
Get Through Airport Security Faster with PreCheck
TSA PreCheck can save you both time and hassle during your next trip to the airport. To start enjoying the benefits of TSA PreCheck, apply here.